Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House on Friday rejected a conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was created in a Chinese lab. Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious disease, said the available evidence on the origins of the virus is "totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human." Fox News and Republican allies of President Donald Trump have been pushing the lab narrative hard in recent days, despite a lack of hard evidence to back it up.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious disease, on Friday, rejected a conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus escaped a Chinese lab. "A group of highly-qualified evolutionary virologists looked at the sequences in bats as they evolve. The mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human," Fauci said at the daily White House press briefing in response to a question from a reporter on the theory, which has been pushed by President Donald Trump's allies in recent days. The precise origins of the novel coronavirus, which is officially known as SARS-CoV-2 and causes the disease COVID-19, remain somewhat of a mystery. But, as Fauci underscored in his remarks on Friday, studies of the virus' genome have strongly indicated that it was transmitted from an animal to a human. "We do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible," an analysis published in Nature Medicine in mid-March said. The study, led by computational biologist Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in California, compared COVID-19 to the six other coronaviruses known to infect humans. The analysis explicitly states that the evidence shows SARS-CoV-2 "is not a purposefully manipulated virus." But as research on the origins of the novel coronavirus continues, some in the Trump administration, including the president, are seemingly still open to the possibility it escaped from a Chinese lab. "More and more, we're hearing the story, and we'll see," Trump said on Thursday.
Trump suggests there's merit to a Fox News story about the novel coronavirus originating in a lab in China pic.twitter.com/8HkVeiJQns — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 15, 2020
On Friday, when asked "how active" the investigation was into whether the virus escaped a lab in Wuhan, China, Trump said: "We are looking at it. A lot of people are looking at it. It seems to make sense ... We are going to find out." "A lot of strange things are happening ... We're going to find out," Trump added. But the US intelligence community has looked into the theory for months and hasn't found hard evidence to back it up, according to a report from Politico, which cited multiple sources familiar with the matter. An administration official told Politico, "There's no consensus."
Trump on Wuhan lab investigation:“We’re looking at it, a lot of people are looking at it. It seems to make sense. … There is a lot of investigation going on and we’re going to find out." pic.twitter.com/nw6KDIpcl1 — JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) April 17, 2020
Fox News has been leading the charge on the Chinese lab conspiracy theory Meanwhile, Fox News, the president's preferred TV network, has been pushing the lab narrative hard over the past week. "Sources believe coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan lab as part of China's efforts to compete with US," a report published on Wednesday and co-authored by Fox News anchor Bret Baier said. Along these lines, Trump's advisers and congressional allies have been hammering China in recent days, excoriating the Chinese government over its lack of transparency in relation to coronavirus. GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Wednesday told Sean Hannity of Fox News that China "must be made to pay the price" if it's determined the virus came out of a Wuhan lab. Similarly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday told Fox News: "We really need the Chinese Government to open up. They say they want to cooperate. One of the best ways they could find to cooperate would be to let the world in, to let the world's scientists know exactly how this came to be, exactly how this virus began to spread." Trump denies the US has the most coronavirus deaths as his administration defends the country's testing capacity Trump on Friday also expressed skepticism over the Chinese government's official death toll from the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China. Based on the available data, the US is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with the highest number of reported cases and confirmed deaths. But Trump dismissed those numbers. "We don't have the most in the world deaths. The most in the world has to be China. It is a massive country...they must have the most," Trump said during Friday's press briefing. As of Friday evening, there were nearly 700,000 reported cases of coronavirus in the US, and over 36,000 confirmed deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Comparatively, the data said China has seen nearly 84,000 cases and over 4,600 deaths. Beyond Trump, there's been widespread skepticism across the international community over China's official numbers, but the Chinese government has rejected allegations of a coverup. Amid the increased focus on China, the Trump administration continues to face strong criticism from Democratic lawmakers and public health experts over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump spent weeks downplaying the threat of the virus on top of early stumbles at the federal level that left the US behind much of the world on testing for the virus. Some Democrats and former US officials have accused Trump of using China, and more recently the World Health Organization (WHO), as a scapegoat to deflect from his own failures in handling coronavirus. The president earlier this week announced a plan to cut funding to the WHO, criticizing the agency for praising China's transparency in the early days of the outbreak. But Trump was also praising China in this regard around the same time and continued to applaud its handling of the crisis well into February as the virus was spreading in the US.
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2020
Trump has pushed back hard on any criticism of his response and berated reporters who've questioned him about the testing shortages in the US. Vice President Mike Pence and other officials on the coronavirus task force on Friday said that the capacity of testing for coronavirus in the US has increased to a point where governors can initiate the first of three phases that are part of the administration's guidelines on easing social distancing and reopening the economy. But earlier on Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo emphasized that his state, which has been hit the hardest by the novel coronavirus, still needs help from the federal government with testing.
VP Pence on coronavirus testing and reopening the U.S. economy: “Today, we have a sufficient amount of testing to meet the requirements of a Phase 1 reopening, if state governors should choose to do that” pic.twitter.com/AnX24wi8hc — QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) April 17, 2020
On Monday, Trump falsely claimed he had "total" authority to force governors to end coronavirus restrictions in order to restart the economy, but he backtracked by Thursday and said he would leave such decisions up to the states. By Friday, however, Trump was on Twitter encouraging residents of Virginia and Michigan to "liberate" their states, which came as some states have seen protests against stay-at-home orders. When asked about this at Friday's press briefing, Trump said he did not think his tweets were at odds with the administration's measured guidance for easing restrictions that leaves the timeline up to governors. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Tax Day is now July 15 — this is what it's like to do your own taxes for the very first time
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Mike Pompeo says there's 'enormous evidence' COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab even though intelligence officials have said there's none
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said there was "enormous evidence" that COVID-19 originated in...Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said there was "enormous evidence" that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab. The president has made similar remarks, claiming on Thursday that he had seen evidence to support the theory, but could not share any of the details of his knowledge. US intelligence officials and experts have said there's no evidence to prove such theories, according to The Washington Post. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday claimed there was "enormous evidence" that COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, though there has been so far no public evidence to support such a theory. "There's enormous evidence that that's where this began," Pompeo told ABC News' Martha Raddatz during his appearance on "This Week." "We have said from the beginning, this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outset." "But I think the whole world can see now," Pompeo added. "Remember, China has a history of infecting the world and they have a history of running sub-standard laboratories. These aren't the first times that we have had the world exposed to viruses as a result of failures from a Chinese lab." Jonna Mazet, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Davis, who has worked with and trained Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers in the past, told Business Insider's Aylin Woodward that an accidental lab leak is extremely unlikely. The WIV houses China's only Biosafety-level-4 laboratory, and Mazet said that instead of an accident at the high-security lab, it's far more likely that the virus spilled over naturally from bats, jumping to humans via an intermediary animal host. Trump and his allies have pushed blame towards China since pandemic hit the US Pompeo is not the first US official to make such a claim. At a White House press briefing on Thursday, President Donald Trump said the US was investigating the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has studied coronaviruses that originate in bats. At that news conference, a reporter asked Trump whether he'd seen evidence that gave him a "high degree of confidence" to suggest the virus had originated in a Chinese lab. "Yes I have," Trump said, adding he was "not allowed to tell" anyone about the intelligence. Trump previously floated a similar theory on April 19, promising "consequences" if China was found to have created the novel coronavirus. Pompeo told Raddatz Sunday "the Chinese communist party has refused to cooperate with world health experts" and he could not answer whether he believed the theory that the virus was intentionally released by the Chinese government or whether he believed it to be mistakenly released during a lab accident. The president and other members of his party have continued to attempt to shift blame toward China for the virus's impact on the US, where it has so far killed at least 66,430 and infected some 1,134,673, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University. US intelligence officials said there is no such evidence that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab, according to reports from the Washington Post and New York Times. Experts told the Post that while a lab accident is possible, it's not entirely likely. One US official who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity said officials have been briefed that China could have initially downplayed the outbreak, but they had not seen evidence that COVID-19 was the result of accidental transmission in a Chinese lab. "It's far more likely that Mother Nature is just a step ahead of us and has created a novel pathogen, now able to move quite effectively from human to human," Jason Rao, a bio-security specialist and former senior policy adviser to President Barack Obama, told the Post.Join the conversation about this story »
Trump claims he has evidence the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan lab but that he's 'not allowed to tell' anyone what it is
President Trump said Thursday that he has evidence showing that the coronavirus originated from a lab...President Trump said Thursday that he has evidence showing that the coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China, but he can't share it what it is. "I can't tell you that," Trump said when a reporter asked what information gave him a "high degree of confidence" that the virus came from the lab. "I'm not allowed to tell you that." The Office of the Director of National Intelligence put out a statement Thursday saying the US intelligence community agrees with the "wide scientific consensus" that the coronavirus was not "manmade or genetically modified." The statement said intelligence agencies will continue to "rigorously examine" whether the virus was "the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan." Multiple intelligence officials told The New York Times, Politico, and other outlets that there is no evidence so far to back up the theory that the coronavirus was created in or escaped from a Wuhan lab. Sources also told The Times that Trump administration officials are pressuring US spies to link the virus to the lab, and one former official described senior aides' repeated emphasis of the lab theory as "conclusion shopping." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he has evidence showing that the coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China, but he can't share it what it is. Fox News reporter John Roberts asked Trump whether he has seen any evidence to date that gives him a "high degree of confidence" that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. "Yes, I have," Trump said, before going on a tangent about the World Health Organization and accusing the group of being a "public relations agency for China." "They shouldn't be making excuses when people make horrible mistakes," Trump said. "Especially mistakes that are causing hundreds of thousands of people around the world to die. I think the World Health Organization should be ashamed of themselves." A few minutes later, Roberts pressed Trump again and asked whether he has conclusive evidence that the coronavirus is not a naturally occurring virus. "You're talking about the virus and where it came from?" Trump asked, to which Roberts replied in the affirmative. Here was Trump's response, verbatim: "No, we're going to see where it is. We're going to see where it comes from. And you know, look, you know every theory. You had the theory from the lab, you had the theory from many different — the bats, the type of bat, and the bat is 40 miles away, so it couldn't have been here and it couldn't have been there, and we have a — there's a lot of theories. But, yeah, we have people looking at it very very closely. Scientific people, intelligence people and others, and we're going to put it all together and I think we're going to have a very good answer eventually." "And what gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?" Roberts asked again. "I can't tell you that," Trump said. "I'm not allowed to tell you that." The president's remarks came after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put out a statement saying the intelligence community agrees with the "wide scientific consensus" that the coronavirus was not "manmade or genetically modified." The statement continued to say the intelligence community will "rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan." Multiple intelligence officials and those familiar with the matter told The New York Times, Politico, and other outlets they have found no hard evidence so far to back up the theory that the novel coronavirus was created in or escaped from a Wuhan lab. Sources also told The Times that Trump administration officials are pressing American spies to link the virus to the lab, and one former intelligence official described senior aides' repeated emphasis of the lab theory as "conclusion shopping," a disparaging term analysts use to describe politically motivated demands. Roberts also asked Trump about the ODNI's statement on Thursday. "Who was that, who was that that said that?" Trump replied after Robert brought up the statement. "The Office of the Director of National Intelligence," Robert said. "Yeah, but who in particular, who was the man that made that statement?" the president said. "It was a statement that the ODNI —" Robert began, before Trump cut him off. "Oh, he would know that, huh?" Trump said, referring to his handpicked acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell. "National intelligence, okay. So we'll see."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: We tested a machine that brews beer at the push of a button
The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first appeared, on Friday revised up...The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first appeared, on Friday revised up its death toll from 2,579 to 3,869 — almost exactly 50%. Local officials in Wuhan said earlier deaths were missed because the city's medical facilities were overwhelmed, according to Chinese state media. Questions have long swirled about China's official figures. President Donald Trump asked Wednesday: "Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China?" Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first appeared, revised its death toll sharply up on Friday. Local authorities changed the previous figure of 2,579 to 3,869, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. The change, 1,290 additional deaths, is an increase of almost exactly 50% from before. Officials also added another 325 cases which had not led to a death, bringing the city's total cases to 50,333. That brings China's official total death toll up to 4,632. An unnamed official from the Wuhan municipal headquarters for COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control, Xinhua reported, said cases were missed earlier because of the immense pressure on the health system in the city. The official said: "Due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients. As a result, belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred." There have long been questions about China's official figures, which are considerably lower than some other countries despite the virus first appearing in China in December, if not earlier. While China has a population around four times that of the US, the latter has more than 670,000 cases and over 33,000 dead. Chinese officials have repeatedly argued that China's aggressive response to the virus, such as the decision to lock down Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, for months, kept the situation from spiraling out of control. The unnamed official who announced the change to the city's death toll said Friday: "As the main battleground for securing a decisive victory in the national epidemic prevention and control, Wuhan has taken the most comprehensive, stringent and thorough prevention and control measures." Many outside observers, including the US president, have expressed doubts. "Do you think you're getting honest numbers from some of these countries? Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China?" President Donald Trump asked at a White House coronavirus task force press briefing on Wednesday."Does anybody really believe that?" "Some countries that are in big, big trouble," he added. "And, they're not reporting the facts." The US intelligence community believes that China has intentionally concealed the true extent of the damage caused by the coronavirus in the country, presenting fabricated case and death totals, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month. Revisions to official tallies have had to be made in other places as well, to include the US. New York City, a major hotspot in a hard-hit state, revised its death toll on Tuesday, adding 3,700 deaths to bring the city's total above 10,000. The added deaths were those who had never tested positive but were presumed to have died from the disease. "In the heat of battle, our primary focus has been on saving lives," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's press secretary Freddi Goldstein told The New York Times this week. "As soon as the issue was raised, the mayor immediately moved to release the data."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: We tested a machine that brews beer at the push of a button